Extra services between London and King’s Lynn in doubt as Ely Junction upgrade delayed until at least 2019

A First Capital Connect train heading to King's Lynn along the Fen Line after passing the Ely North

A First Capital Connect train heading to King's Lynn along the Fen Line after passing the Ely North junction. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Passengers will find out next month if twice-hourly train services between King's Lynn and London will still be brought in despite a major junction upgrade in Ely being delayed.

Network Rail, the taxpayer-backed company tasked with upgrading the Ely North Junction, announced this week that the project, which has previously been described as being the key to the more frequent services, will not start work before 2019.

The £35m project is also crucial if there are to be more services between Norwich and Cambridge.

The news came as Sir Peter Hendy, the new Network Rail boss drafted in to run the rule over Network Rail's upgrade plans across the country, concluded that Ely North Junction should be upgraded after 2018, two years after work was due to start in 2016, work they say will be co-ordinated with level crossing work nearby.

But Sir Peter said a study looking at what work would be needed to allow longer eight-carriage trains to operate on the Cambridge to King's Lynn rail link would be conducted, and will report back with costs and timings next spring.

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There will now be a six-week consultation into the report.

MPs have met transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who told them that he thought the extra services could still be brought in without the upgrade to Ely, and he would let them know by December 10 when the services were likely to start.

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Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said the junction bottleneck was stopping half-hourly services between Cambridge, King's Lynn and Norwich, and faster freight links to Peterborough.

'The Norwich to Cambridge line through Mid Norfolk could be an artery linking the backwater of rural Norfolk with Norwich and Cambridge to attract investment and new jobs and ease pressure on our roads,' he said.

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said she had stressed the importance of the junction for jobs and growth in Norfolk.

'I want passengers and businesses to have certainty as soon as possible about when half-hourly services will be in place and when the junction will be upgraded.'

She said that Mr McLoughlin had agreed to write to them by December 10 with the information.

The Department for Transport said it was committed to bringing improvements to services on the Cambridge to King's Lynn corridor and was working with Network Rail to achieve this. A Network Rail spokesman said: 'No infrastructure project has been cancelled and the bulk of our investment programme for the east of England will be delivered by March 2019.

'Some projects, such as Ely North Junction, will take longer than originally expected and we understand that people will be disappointed.

'We will continue our work to develop this scheme and over the next four years will continue to deliver our Railway Upgrade Plan to provide more reliable journeys for passengers in the region.'

What do you think about the delay? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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